The Japanese prefecture of Saitama, which neighbors Tokyo, has become the second local government in Japan to ban the sale of Grand Theft Auto III to anyone aged under eighteen, according to Japanese online reports.
The decision was apparently made because the game contained “many scenes depicting brutality and particularly promoted violence among youths”. As a result, the game was then deemed a “harmful publication”, which forces retailers to stock it separately from other titles, with sales to anyone under the age of eighteen resulting in an up to ¥300,000 ($2,700) fine.
"I've seen the game myself and it's far too violent and obviously harmful," Saitama governor Kiyoshi Ueda said in remarks reported by the Mainichi Daily News. "Freedom of expression is one thing, but the wholesome upbringing of youths is also important and this was the only option."
The new ruling appears to govern simply the original Grand Theft Auto 3 (Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas has not yet been released in Japan), as it did in the earlier banning by the Kanagawa prefecture. In that instance, Japanese publisher Capcom attempted to have the decision overturned, citing freedom of speech concerns and worries that the ban would undermine existing industry warnings on the packaging.
The Japanese trade organization CESA’s (Computer Entertainment Supplier's Association) response to the ban was to start a voluntary program preventing the sale of games rated 18+ to minors. This has not prevented Saitama prefecture taking their own measures, but it has so far preempted any wider restrictions from the national government.